Tag Archives: reluctant hero

Review: The Hero’s Lot, by Patrick W. Carr

The Heros LotThe Hero’s Lot, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2013)

The Staff & The Sword series needs to be read in order. And it’s worth reading without seeing the spoilers for book 1 that will appear in the following review of book 2. If you haven’t read book 1, A Cast of Stones, you can see my review here. If it appeals, pop over to your favourite internet bookstore and download the book for free in Kindle, Nook or Kobo format.

I have so many books in my to-read stash that I’d forgotten I had A Cast of Stones until a review caught my interest. It took great self-control not to immediately buy The Hero’s Lot when I finished, and this time I went ahead and bought book 3, A Draw of Kings, to read immediately after book 2. Book 3 is $9.99 Canadian. I’ll only pay that much for an exceptional ebook. This series is worth it.

Enough rambling. Here’s my review of book 2, with the aforementioned spoilers for book 1:

The Hero’s Lot continues the saga of Errol Stone, a reluctant hero who somehow survived the first book. Naturally (for Errol) just when life is looking good, he’s thrown back into danger. This time he’s sent on an impossible quest. His friends Martin and Luis are sent on another path that turns out nearly as dangerous.

The world of Illustra bears a striking similarity to a mediaeval type of Earth, and its religion echoes key elements of Christianity. Illustra’s deity is a Trinity: Deas, Eleison and the “unknowable” spirit, Aurae. Except that the healers, rejected by the official Church (definitely a capital C for this institution) say Aurae communes with them.

Illustra’s Church has many devout priests, as well as others who have done untold harm in its name. Errol knows this better than most, and his pain is almost his undoing. The characters take an honest look at the problem of hypocrisy and abuse of power within the Church, and I think readers who’ve had their own negative experiences with Christians and/or the church will find this series a safe place to be. No pat answers, no denial, but perhaps a gradual presentation of hope.

Lovers of epic fantasy, whether they’re people of faith or not, can appreciate the sweeping nature of the series, with its intricately-crafted world and cultures, characters who inspire loyalty (or enmity), chases, combat scenes, plus threads of romance and the occasional funny line.

Some of my favourite lines:

Questions chased each other through his mind like unruly acolytes playing tag before vespers. [Martin, a priest. Kindle page 58]

“I always think better when I hold a cup of tea,” Karele said. “It keeps my hands from running away with my thoughts.” [Kindle page 75]

Naaman Ru moved through opposition like a phantom, and the touch of his shadow brought death. [Part of a fight scene. Kindle page 423]

I read a lot of books, most of them very good. Sometimes it starts to feel like work. With A Cast of Stones and The Hero’s Lot, I wanted to keep reading and see what happened, but I also wanted to take it slowly so the story wouldn’t end too soon. For me, that’s rare.

It’s also worth noting that the covers for this series are amazing.

Patrick W. Carr is an award-winning author of character-driven fantasy. His new series, The Darkwater Saga, releases this fall. For more about the author or to sign up for his newsletter, visit patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: A Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. Carr

A Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. CarrA Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2013)

The kingdom of Illustra has a mediaeval feel to it, with horses, knights and magic. The story opens with Errol, a homeless youth, seizing the opportunity to deliver a message to a reclusive priest. The money will buy him more ale, which will push back the memories he can’t face.

Errol is the most unlikely of heroes: scrawny, hopeless and addicted to drink. Yet as he’s dragged unwillingly along with the others on a desperate journey, he develops skills and a sense of worth. Something about the lad engaged my interest from page one, before I realized he was the novel’s protagonist. (He wouldn’t like me to use the word “hero.”)

There are plenty of allegorical references to the Christian faith, but not in a way that should limit this book’s appeal to a wider audience. Readers will find the corrupt as well as the pure within Illustra’s church leaders. Indeed, the pure seems the exception rather than the rule.

The magic element comes from those who can cast and read hand-carved lots. To anyone but a reader, the lots look like balls made of wood or stone. To a reader who asks the right question, the lots can reveal truth—and the future.

The novel’s magic and religious systems are well-thought-out, the world feels believably real, and the characters come alive. Errol’s perpetual danger on his journey (and once he reaches his destination) and his transformation along the way, make for a deeply satisfying fantasy read.

Favourite line:

“I am Brother Fenn,” the man in the cowl said. His voice sounded dry, dusty—as if he’d forsaken water when he’d taken the rest of his vows. [Kindle location 1616]

A Cast of Stones is book one in The Staff & The Sword trilogy, and I was happy to discover that books two and three are already available. For more about the author and his books, visit patrickwcarr.com. You can watch a brief trailer for A Cast of Stones, complete with original music: [Review copy from my personal library.]